Coming upon the fertile fields of Mildura after miles of dry Mallee shrub you have the sense of entering an oasis. For a writer, arriving at the Mildura Festival elicits a similar response: here, at last, is a place to be refreshed and fed, metaphorically and literally. It is a friendly and delicious affair, where writers are fêted because their work is valued and where enjoyment seems raised to a fine art. If ever writing was thought to be food for the mind, then here food for the body is regarded as spiritual nourishment as well.... (read more)
The languid water of a fountain
rises to a steady height, collapses
upon itself, splashing
a stone bowl on a pedestal.
The elliptical pool ripples
in the afternoon’s light air.
You might expect a book of eighty-eight new poems by Les Murray to be sizeable (most of his recent single volumes run to about sixty poems each). But Poems the Size of Photographs is literally a small book, composed of short poems (‘though some are longer’, says the back cover) ...... (read more)
Rarely does one come across a book that is both intensely ‘literary’ – stylised, sophisticated, deeply engaged with its antecedents – and achingly moving, so viscerally raw that it takes one’s breath away. A Passing Bell: Ghazals for Tina – an elegy-sequence for Tina Kane, to whom Paul Kane was married for thirty-six years – is such a work ...... (read more)
Poets aren’t generally known for being great collaborators. Wordsworth and Coleridge’s 'Lyrical Ballads' (1798) is a rare example of a co-authored canonical work of poetry. 'Renga: 100 poems', by John Kinsella and Paul Kane, has some similarities to 'Lyrical Ballads'. Like those of its ...... (read more)
It is tempting to say that when Mark Strand died last November American poetry lost one of its most distinctive voices. But it isn’t quite true. First, Strand had already retired from poetry several years earlier (before Philip Roth and Alice Munro caused a stir by doing so from fiction). Strand returned to his first career as an artist (a very talented one, accor ...
Peter Steele once described his teaching and writing as ‘acts of celebration’. He is – and was – quite literally a celebrant: in his role as a Jesuit priest, and as a poet of praise. Those acts of celebration extend to his prose works as well, both his homilies and his literary essays, especially those that take up the matter of poetry ...... (read more)
‘To choose the best, among many good,’ says Dr Johnson in his ‘Life of Cowley’, ‘is one of the most hazardous attempts of criticism.’ The truth of this maxim is borne out nicely in the controversy surrounding – or perhaps emanating from – Rita Dove’s new selection of twentieth-century American poetry ...... (read more)